People who call Iowa ‘home’ get it: it’s the land, the people, the wide-open spaces and yes, even the changing seasons that make Iowa great.  For all these reasons and more, Iowa is the best place to live in the nation.  But hey, don’t take my word for it; check out our #1 ranking from the national U.S. News Best States report.

The second annual Best States Study ranks Iowa number one based on a variety of measures from health care and education to opportunity and quality of life. Yes, quality of life, where the study looked at the state’s natural environment, drinking water, air quality and “the lack of toxic chemical pollution per square mile.”  That may come as a surprise to those who chafe at the thought of Iowa’s ‘first in the nation’ agriculture heritage, preferring to use farmers as scapegoats to promote their own agendas.      

I guess it all comes down to the lens you use to view your world.  While critics of Iowa agriculture tend to seek sanctuary by clustering together and seeing the world as ‘half empty’, these researchers, who took a long look at our state, our land, our water, our people and our politics, see Iowa as a land where the glass is definitely ‘half full.’  In fact, they see it brimming over the top!  And, they give much credit to agriculture. The Best States Study says it is our farming heritage which deserves much credit for improving our way of life, bragging up our “rolling hills covered with corn, soybeans and other crops, its ever-present pork, some of the most sumptuous in the nation.” Yes, our farmers grow more corn, soybeans, bacon and eggs in more ways than any other state in the nation.  Agriculture accounts for one out of every five jobs in Iowa, and the Best States Study says that makes sense, considering food manufacturing accounts for so many jobs and income in our state. 

We should be proud of our farming successes.  The rest of the world certainly is and in fact, they come here to learn about our way of farming and figure out how to copy it, so they can feed more of their people.  Our love affair with meat is legendary, which explains why ‘Baconfest,’ now an international event, started right here in Iowa.

Even if we don’t all agree, Iowans value each other for saying so, up-front.  We’re known for speaking our minds and you’ll hear a lot of strong opinions every four years, when Iowans pack their town halls and local gymnasiums, vetting candidates at our first-in-the-nation Presidential caucuses.  Our political involvement is also a criterion which put Iowa over the top in the 2018 Best States Study.  

Researchers say our quality of life ranking is also bolstered by Iowans’ clear sense of community. We invest in our communities, encouraging young entrepreneurs to get that idea off the drawing board.  We also help rural Iowa businesses grow, so they can stay in their rural communities and even hire a few more local residents.  These values have always been a part of Iowa Farm Bureau, since we began 100 years ago. Because we know Iowans value each other and our communities, we invest heavily in our next generation of leaders,  our young people through scholarships so they study here and work here in rural Iowa. 

Iowa is a place to live, a place to work, a place to grow, and not just corn and soybeans, but friends. ‘Iowa Nice’ is a phrase first coined to describe the helpful nature of rural Iowans; we’re neighbors who finish the harvest for a neighbor who can’t; we drive hundreds of miles to bring hay to farmers we’ve never met, who lost everything in wildfires.  Farmers even come to the aid of local pet shelters, inundated with sick animals from a hoarding case.  Yes, Iowa farmers and Iowans in general are nice so it should be no surprise when others notice.  Living here, working here, just being Iowan makes us the envy of the nation. Be sure to pass it on!   

Laurie Johns is Public Relations Manager for the Iowa Farm Bureau